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Hosea v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

August 26, 2019

AMBER DANIELLE HOSEA, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBRA C. POPLIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 17]. Now before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 18 & 19] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 20 & 21]. Amber Danielle Hosea (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Andrew M. Saul (“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's motion and DENY the Commissioner's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., claiming a period of disability that began on December 27, 2014. [Tr. 13, 146-48]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 98]. A hearing was held on August 30, 2016. [Tr. 29-55]. On December 5, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 10-28]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 17, 2017 [Tr. 3-5], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on November 27, 2017, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1].[2] The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 27, 2014, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, Sjögren's syndrome, migraines, anxiety disorder, and depressive disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except would be limited to lifting and/or carrying 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. With normal breaks in an eight-hour day, she could sit, stand and/or walk for up to six hours but would need a sit/stand option every 30 to 45 minutes. Additionally, the claimant would need to avoid climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds as well as avoiding concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards such as unprotected heights or machinery. Furthermore, as a result of pain, mental limitations and/or migraine headaches, she would be reduced to simple routine repetitive tasks in that she can apply common sense understanding to carry out oral, written, and diagrammatic instructions.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on May 23, 1985 and was 29 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).

[Tr. 15-22].

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When reviewing the Commissioner's determination of whether an individual is disabled pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court is limited to determining whether the ALJ's decision was reached through application of the correct legal standards and in accordance with the procedure mandated by the regulations and rulings promulgated by the Commissioner, and whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004).

         Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). It is immaterial whether the record may also possess substantial evidence to support a different conclusion from that reached by the ALJ, or whether the reviewing judge may have decided the case differently. Crisp v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 790 F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986). The substantial evidence standard is intended to create a “‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can act, without the fear of court interference.” Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 773 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)). Therefore, the Court will not “try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.” Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984) (citation omitted).

         On review, the plaintiff “bears the burden of proving his entitlement to benefits.” Boyes v. Sec'y. of Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d ...


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